The analysis shows that children in the age group of 0-14 years are less affected by COVID-19, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Lok Sabha on Friday. He said in a written reply that infection among children is mild, and most of them remain asymptomatic.
Hence no specific action plan has been formulated in the current response phase to minimize the adverse effects of COVID-19 on such children– said Mr. Harsh Vardhan.
Very rarely a severe illness, in form of the multi-system inflammatory syndrome, has been identified, Vardhan said, adding this happens usually three to six weeks after the infection.
The Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS, is documenting the long term effect of COVID-19 infection in children, he said.
The minister was responding to a question on whether the government had formulated any action plan to control and minimise the adverse effects of COVID-19 in children aged 0-14.
For appropriate management of COVID-19 cases, a three-tier arrangement of health facilities has been implemented — COVID Care Centre with isolation beds for mild or pre-symptomatic cases, Dedicated COVID Health Centre (DCHC) with oxygen supported isolation beds for moderate cases, and Dedicated COVID Hospital (DCH) with ICU beds for severe cases, he said.
Guidelines on clinical management of COVID-19 have been issued, Vardhan said. They also provides for management of complications.
On whether the government has made any assessment of adverse effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and has provided psychological support through healthcare professionals. Vardhan said the Ministry of Education has initiated a program called ‘manodarpan’ covering a wide range of activities to provide psycho-social support to students, teachers, and families for mental health and emotional wellbeing.
There is a national toll-free helpline 8448440632 to provide tele-counselling for students, parents and teachers to help cope with the situation, he said.
The standard operating procedure for health and safety protocols for reopening schools issued by the Ministry of Education has incorporated guidelines for promoting students’ and teachers’ emotional well-being, the minister said.
The Ministry of Health set up a 24/7 helpline through NIMHANS, Bangalore, on March 29, 2020 to provide psycho-social support to the affected population, divided into different target groups, Vardhan said.
Two central mental health institutions – namely LGB Regional Institute of Mental Health, Tezpur, and Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi – and various states and UTs, were also on-boarded to extend the services in regional and local languages.
He said guidelines and advisories on managing mental health issues, catering to different segments of the society, were issued. All the guidelines, advisories, and advocacy material can be accessed on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website under ‘Behavioural Health Psycho-social helpline’, Vardhan said.
He further said that various media platforms were used for creative and audio-visual materials on managing stress and anxiety, and promoting an environment of support and care for all.
To address the burden of mental disorders, the Government of India is implementing the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), Vardhan said, adding the government supports the implementation of the District Mental Health Programme (DMHP) under NMHP in 692 districts of the country.
To generate awareness among the masses about mental illnesses, Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities are an integral part of the NMHP. At the District level, funds up to Rs 4 lakh per annum are provided under the DMHP for awareness generation activities, he said.